A Conservative councillor “worked himself up” into a panic attack in order to avoid giving police blood after failing an initial drink drive breath test, a court heard today.
A district judge was told Joe Miller, 27, admits he over the limit when driving his black BMW 420 on the A27 at Hollingbury in September 2021.
But his defence says proper procedure was not followed when he was taken to the police station and started hyperventilating, and that he was not able to give proper consent.
Prosecuting, Dominic Dudkowski said: “Two officers in an unmarked police car saw a car overtaking them then effectively tailgating several other vehicles on the outside fast lane, his brake lights were on as he’s tailgating other cars despite him moving forwards at speed.”
Police stopped him, and when he failed to do a screening breath test, they told him he would be arrested for failing to provide one.
He then agreed to do one, which showed he was over the limit, so he was arrested and taken to Hollingbury police station.
He then started hyperventilating. A Sussex Police medic and two paramedics said he was medically fit, and he was again told he would be arrested for failing to provide a sample if he didn’t do a blood test.
He then consented, and it showed he was over the limit.
Mr Dudkowski said: “The defendant was aware he had consumed alcohol, he had already obstructed the roadside procedure because he admitted that he had had alcohol at lunchtime and was worried that he might be over the limit.
“His behaviour at the custody centre was significantly self induced for the purposes of avoiding breath or blood being taken from him.”
The court has been shown CCTV showing police officers talking to Miller at the roadside after he was stopped.
One officer tells him: “You were so close to the vehicles it would be impossible for you to stop in the event of an emergency. It’s terrible.”
They then try and get him to do several breath tests. In one, Miller stops after a couple of seconds, and in others, he appears not to be blowing hard enough, or sucking instead of blowing.
The officer says: “At the moment, you are just messing me around. It’s not difficult. It’s like blowing bubbles through a straw.”
Miller says: “I have no idea.”
The police officer says: “Don’t breathe on it, blow like you are blowing up a balloon … you have never blown up a balloon, okay.”
When warned he could be arrested for failing to provide a specimen, ad asked why he’s not blowing into the machine, Miller says: “I had a glass of wine at lunch, I’m a bit worried I might be over the limit … I’m a bit nervous about this.”
Footage from body worn cameras at the Hollingbury custody suite has also been shown. In it, Miller is breathing loudly, and occasionally sobbing, laughing hysterically, and saying: “I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe” over and over again.
He is lying on a bed in a medical bay, and not being retrained, and being advised to breathe slowly, in through his nose and out through his mouth.
A police officer is shown discussing him with a paramedic outside the bay, saying: “I have had it before we have people listen to you because they want it to stop.
“He’s saying I’m not listening to that. That’s my opinion.”
An officer tells him they need to take blood to establish if there’s cocaine in his blood after a screening test – which was subsequently found to be a false positive – found there was.
Miller says: “What if someone’s given it to me, what if I have a heart attack?”
Eventually, the officer tells him that three medics have found him medically fit, and he agrees to a blood test.
A legal expert, Joanne Caffrey, who has travelled down from Orkney to give evidence, is due to speak on his behalf later in the hearing.
Miller is being defended by John Dye, who previously represented Alan Carr’s ex-husband Paul Drayton on drink-driving charges.
Miller is not in the courtroom in person as he has covid, but is instead appearing via videolink, but was in the court building.
Last year, Miller resigned with immediate effect as a councillor from both Brighton and Hove City Council, where he represented Rottingdean, and Lewes District Council.
He said he resigned because he is getting married and moving out of the area, and nothing to do with the ongoing court proceedings.
The case continues.